Monday, December 12, 2016

All Star Academy Gymnastics Center Offers Opportunities for All and a Story of Redemption

Madison Williams (middle) and her parents, Ellen and Mike Williams, opened All-Star Academy Gymnastics Nov. 1.

On November 1, 20-year-old Madison Williams, along with her parents, Ellen and Mike Williams, opened All-Star Academy Gymnastics in Wilder, Ky. Offering both competitive and non-competitive instruction in a state-of-the-art facility, the Academy is a dream come true for Madison, and one born out of a terrible accident.

Two years ago Madison, a long-time-gymnast-turned-coach, was driving in Independence, Ky., when another driver failed to yield at a yellow, flashing arrow. Madison was going 55 mph when she noticed the fast-approaching car. Madison honked, but it was too late. She was T-boned, and the force of the air bag shattered her dominate hand, which she was using to press her horn. She broke out of her car. Someone called 911.

Dr. James D. Baker of Commonwealth Orthopaedic Centers spent four hours in surgery at St. Elizabeth Edgewood trying to save Madison's hand. He later told Madison's parents that it had been "crushed, like an egg." After five plates, 26 screws and a five-day hospital stay, Madison was sent home with a long recovery ahead of her.



At the time, Madison was a sophomore at Northern Kentucky University. Prior to that she attended Calvary Christian School. A gymnast since she was 8 years old, Madison was invited to practice competitively. She loved it, but it was time-consuming. Madison regularly practiced four hours a day, typically 16 hours a week. Her studies suffered. So she switched from competing to coaching, which resulted in an academic scholarship to study journalism at NKU.

Madison recovered well, in part to her years as a gymnast. Her doctors initially thought she would regain 40 to 50 percent function of her hand. Madison regained 85 percent. Still, it was her dominate hand. A life's work as a journalist—which requires intense note taking and typing—seemed impossible.

So often life's most terrible moments lead to deep reflection. Madison thought about changing majors, but to what? For several years she had been coaching and, later, managing, at Top Flight Gymnastics and NKY Elite. She loved the work. And through her work she had developed her own style and belief system—not only on how a gymnastics center should be run, but how students should be treated.

Madison Williams believes all students are stars, hence the Academy's name.

On the wall at All-Star Academy is Psalm 147:4. "He counts the stars and calls them by name." Below this hand-painted quote are paper stars, each with a student's name on it. Invitations aren't necessary at All-Star Academy. Students can practice competitively and non-competitively at whatever pace they desire. All are welcome. All are stars.

It didn't take long for Madison to realize she wanted to open her own Northern Kentucky gymnastics center. With money from the accident, her parents (who are also owners) support, time, energy, a great deal of research and a huge amount of learning, the family owned and operated Academy was born.

Madison and her parents found the perfect space to lease inside Next Level Academy at 419 Licking Pike in Wilder. They currently have 6,000 square feet to play with, and hope to someday expand within Next Level Academy or build a new facility.

All-Star Academy's 6,000 square feet of space is filled with state-of-the-art equipment.

The family spent months researching the best equipment. The result? Top-of-the-line equipment including a double-layer spring floor and impressive matting, high bar, low bar, uneven bars, a competition-level adjustable beam, low beam and more. Everything is certified by USA Gymnastics, the sole governing body for the sport in the United States.

Madison's mother, Ellen, serves as owner, office manager, event planner and parent liaison. As someone who watched her own daughter compete as a gymnast for years, Ellen offers the perfect parent perspective in particular when it comes to balancing sports, family time, fun time, homework, sleep and nutrition.

Madison's father, Mike, serves as owner, building manager and business manager. A 1981 graduate of Highlands High School, Mike has served in the Federal Aviation Administration as an Air Traffic Controller for the past 30 years. Two years from retirement Mike continues to work full-time at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport while also working at the Academy.

All-Star Academy's current non-competitive offerings include Kindernastics, for ages 2 (walking) to 4, with a focus on the most basic gymnastic skills. Beginner, intermediate and advance classes are available in trampoline and tumbling, and recreational gymnastics. Competitive offerings include gymnastic teams levels 1-5 and cheer teams. More information on all the classes can be found here.

But in all classes, both competitive and non-competitive, Madison and her parents hope to instill confidence in their students, by providing opportunity and encouragement equally, to all. Some of the students will compete at high levels, and will do quite well. Some will simply have fun. Madison says she believes that both paths are good and valid, and hopes that with the lessons of athleticism life lessons are learned as well.

A collection of medals Madison Williams won in former gymnastics competitions.

Life threw a big lesson at Madison early on—and now, at 20 years old she's learned that goodness can come from a terrible accident and a crushed arm can still have the strength to lead hundreds of future students down a path filled with opportunity, encouragement and chances to grow.

For more information on All-Star Academy Gymnastics visit them online here and on Facebook here. You may also call them at (859) 393-1686 or email them at asagymnastics@gmail.com.

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